The Power of Restorative Yoga for Healing
By Sydna Marshall
It’s no secret that my sinuses are terrible. Arguably, they should be a contender for worst CF sinuses ever. I’ve had a 24/7 recurrent sinus infection since 2009. I’ve had far too many sinus surgeries. My ENT has removed countless polyps, both inpatient and in his office. I’ve also had a reduction in my nasal turbinates multiple times. Most recently, my ENT created a flap on the floor of my sinuses to help sinus rinses drain better. That flap, along with in-office professional sinus washes with a scope, have kept me out of the OR for over three years now. On top of all of those surgeries, I have also had a frontal obliteration sinus surgery, in which an incision was made on my scalp and, after peeling back the skin and cutting away part of the bone, the ENT removed all my forehead sinuses and replaced them with fat from another area before replacing the bone and adding metal plates to hold it all together. X marks the spot on my x-rays now! For the first 24 hours after surgery, I was blindfolded—my head was wrapped in a tight bandage to help reduce swelling. I also had 32 staples in my scalp and a drain tube that snaked across my forehead. I looked like I had been assimilated by the Borg.
As you can imagine, recovery from that surgery was long and difficult, to say the least. My scalp was numb for about nine months and I had to hold up my eyelids with my fingers to apply makeup because I had no feeling there either. However, what stands out the most for me was the immense swelling, pain, and pressure surrounding my head immediately following the surgery. The pillow hurt my head. I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t sleep. After a month of this, I was in tears and at my wit’s end. I felt like I had exhausted every remedy possible and nothing helped. I broke down and called my cousin (who was, and still is, a nationally well-known yoga practitioner) for advice. I needed relief and I needed sleep. Badly. Without hesitating, she recommended a restorative yoga class where the gongs and/or Tibetan bowls are played after the class. I’m pretty sure I argued back! Who was she kidding? She wanted me to listen to music after a head surgery? The nerve! She said to trust her and so, with no other options, I did just that.
I went to my first restorative yoga class the next day. Unlike other yoga classes where you move through many poses, you only have three to five poses during restorative yoga and each pose is held for about 15-20 minutes. They are set up with a bunch of yoga props, such as bolsters, blankets, and blocks and each pose is designed to help your body relax and settle into a supported posture to aid the release of tension in the body. I walked into class with zero expectations that this would be helpful for my recovery. I fully anticipated needing to leave right away. Prior to class, my cousin had told me how the sound waves from the gong and the Tibetan bowls taps into my parasympathetic nervous system and releases energy that is trapped. She noted that I probably have a lot of energy from the trauma of the surgery in my head. I was skeptical. Sound waves release energy? Sound would make my throbbing head hurt less? Sure enough, when the first note was played during class I could feel the tension releasing from my head. I felt like there was an invisible force pulling the residual trauma from the incision, not unlike how Dumbledore pulls his memories out of his head with his wand in Harry Potter! I had 75 minutes of bliss that day. And that night, the effects of the restorative yoga class coupled with some nighttime anti-inflammatory tablets recommended to me by the holistic pharmacy in town, was the first night I was able to sleep in a month. It was heavenly. I continued going to restorative yoga for months after that and it’s still, to this day, one of the best things I did for myself during the long recovery process.
I no longer practice yoga in person with other yogis, but I still get on my mat at home and commit that hour to myself. I’ve said several times in the 18 years I’ve been practicing yoga that my yoga mat has saved me, both mentally and physically—it saved me when I was going through a divorce and it saved me when I was recovering from the frontal obliteration.
I’ve said several times in the 18 years I’ve been practicing yoga that my yoga mat has saved me, both mentally and physically—it saved me when I was going through a divorce and it saved me when I was recovering from the frontal obliteration.
When I feel out of balance in life my mat always centers me. And every time I’m working on an inversion, like tripod, I’m reminded that I can because of that surgery. Even though the initial goal of the surgery (to eliminate the rampant infection in my forehead sinuses) didn’t work out, the surgery did save my life and the restorative yoga classes saved my sanity.
About the Author: Sydna Marshall is 40 years old and has CF. She is the President and Managing Editor of USACFA. She lives in Austin, TX with her husband, Adam, and her two furbabies, Husker and Cutty. Whe she's not reading, she's working a puzzle or walking her dogs. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.